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Florida Astronaut Celebrates Space With Colorful Suit In Wynwood Exhibition

Former Astronaut Nicole Stott works on the Space Suit Art Project called Unity with a cancer patient from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Nicole Stott
Former Astronaut Nicole Stott works on the Space Suit Art Project called Unity with a cancer patient from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

A space suit made out of hundreds of textile fabrics with hearts, stars, drawn space rockets and planets made by kids and cancer patients from over 45 countries will be on display at the R House Wynwood art gallery starting this weekend. 

The colorful spacesuit was made through the Space for Art Foundation, an organization that connects former astronauts with childhood cancer patients to inspire the next generation of space lovers. One of the lead members is former NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott, who calls herself the "Artistic Space Astronaut" because she was the first person to watercolor in space. She travels the world and helps kids with the creation of the spacesuit. So far they've painted and knitted over three spacesuits: Unity, Hope and Courage. 

An interview with former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott about her work with Space For Art Foundation.

"Space as an inspiration is a really wonderful inspiration," said Stott on Sundial. "Kids are pointing at this [spacesuit] and they're talking about their future because of this."

Stott is holding a special fundraising event in Wynwoodon Thursday, September 19 that will showcase the work of the Space for Art Foundation. She joined Sundial to discuss the focus of the organization and how she connects her passion for art with her passion in space. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

WLRN: What was it like that first moment, when all of a sudden you've left the Earth's atmosphere and now you are in outer space?

STOTT: It's definitely one of those 'holy moly,' surreal 'how did I get here?' because you have this memory of strapping in at the launch pad. That whole experience is one of the most dynamic you will ever have in your entire life and then you are in this peaceful, liberating, the most relaxing kind of feeling for your body that you can have.  Then to have that view out of the window - it's stunning. Like, 'oh my gosh the Earth really is a planet' view out the window and to be able to do the kind of work that we do there,  that's all about improving life on Earth. I think it's just this wonderful experience all wrapped up into a moment .

How did it work to paint in water colors in outer space? How are you getting paint to brush to the canvas?

It's really fun. I didn't think too much about it before going and, in hindsight, watercolor was the best medium to use because it cleans up easy too.

Down here we would dip our brush into a cup of water, up there you don't. You just squirt out a little ball of water from a drink bag and then you touch the brush to the ball of water. For some reason, the water wanted to move over to the brush before you even touched it and then it would float around the end of the bristles.

Down here,  it all kind of mix together but up there, just like you are moving this ball of water  around on the end of the bristles, then I would mush it around on the color. It was like you were pulling the water off of the paint. Then when I painted, it took a couple tries to get the technique down because if I actually touched the brush itself to the paper, the paper just absorb the whole blob of water at one time. In the end, it was more like dragging the ball of water along the paper than it was really using the paint brush to paint.

This is the spacesuit Exploration on display.
Credit Nicole Stott / Courtesy
This is the spacesuit Exploration on display.

The Space Suit Art Project is a patchwork of designs. Tell us more about it.

We tell the kids what the name of the suit will be. We've had hope, courage, unity and the one that we're going to display is called inspiration.

We went from painting with kids in one hospital to painting with kids in hospitals in over 45 countries, several refugee camps and some schools and all of their artwork comes together in this community project. The project brings them together really I think as earthlings so they know about all these other kids around the world. They're given the opportunity to transcend this experience that they're going through in the hospital and think about their future.

Space as an inspiration is a really wonderful inspiration for a lot of reasons and kids get it and they're talking about their future because of this.

Copyright 2019 WLRN 91.3 FM

Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.